Crime And Punishment And Invisible Man Why Do I Exist? Existentialism in Crime and Punishment and Invisible Man The works of Dostoevsky and Ellison are both obvious existential novels, but they exist on two different levels of existentialism. In Invisible Man the invisible narrator has to deal with the enemy of a chaotic and prejudice world around him. In contrast Roskolnokov in Crime And Punishment is his own enemy, and struggles with his two separate identities. One which feels he is superior to ordinary men and the other which is kind, caring and sensitive to those around him. The movie, “Erin Brockovich” also deals with existentialism, and still on another level. She has to overcome a doomed life of being white trash and does so by conquering a cruel and evil outside force. Existentialists are responsible for their own actions and their own fates.
While the outside world affects their lives, these characters inevitably choose their own fates; which are all quite different. Invisible Man is a novel, which takes the reader through a whirlwind of surrealism. The narrator goes on a torturous roller coaster of events, all of which confuse his opinion of himself even more. Like Crime and Punishment, Invisible Man is a novel that takes the main character through events that define the shape of the character’s being. The narrator gets swept away into many different identities and by making each one of those false he comes closer to his true self.
He becomes a preacher and has an affair with a married woman almost at the same time. Falsifying these identities brings him one step closer to finding himself. The reaction that the narrator has to different events also establishes his position in life, his fate. Many times in Invisible Man the narrator takes an undeserved punishment and goes about his life. When Dr. Bledsoe finds out about him and Mr. Norton’s little trip, though the narrator doesn’t know it yet, he is corrected by being kicked out of the college.
When the narrator does find out about the banishment from the college he is furious. But because of the color of his skin he can’t do much about it. Through the rest of his life he strives to find a way he can repay Dr. Bledsoe for his great kindness, but never truly finds the right gift for him. Unlike Roskolnikov, the narrator of Invisible Man defines himself by his fight against the racism and cruelty of those around him. Roskolnikov, on the other hand, fights himself, his own thoughts and theories.
He has an internal enemy to defeat. The invisible narrator is totally free and responsible for his acts of, in my opinion, cowardice and plain laziness not to do something about the world around him. Jonathon Baumback sees the narrator “admitting defeat by withdrawing into the mad world of the underground.” As most existentialists do, the narrator resolves to depression and despair because he feels he is responsible for every aspect of his life. He wants no part of the outside world. The only way he will ever resolve his hopelessness is to leave his dark, underground hole and return to the light.
“The light is the truth.” And that truth is that the world can be a cruel and heartless place, but we all have to deal with it. Crime and Punishment is a much more obvious existential novel. Dostoevsky gives Roskolnikov an extreme thought process. Roskolnikov’s thought and ideals are what lead him to the predicaments he gets into. As I stated earlier Roskolnikov has two separate personalities. He struggles with them throughout the novel.
His extraordinary man theories lead him to believe that he has the right to kill some one because he is superior to them and those he is superior to are just a nuisance to the world. Because he is an existentialist he doesn’t care about the consequences the world will give him. He is responsible for himself. Unlike Invisible Man, the main character in Crime and Punishment has a much more developed thought process, which makes the book a little more interesting. He strongly believes that he has all control over his life and nothing any one else does is going to matter to him. “He had given up attending to matters of practical importance; he had lost all desire to do so.
Nothing that any landlady could do had real terror for him.” This statement partly suggests that he is in a deep depression. It also reinforces that he has no care of the power of those around him. He is responsible for every aspect of his life. The other side of Roskolnikov is revealed through his relationship with Sonia and with his mother. Roskolnikov, through these relationships, is shown to be sensitive and loving.
It is this side of his personality he chooses to permanently convey to others. In meeting Sonia this extraordinary man is introduced to Christian love. And through that love he finds himself. He defines himself by the value he has through Sonia’s love and the love of Christ. By confessing his crime and serving his sentence he is ultimately redeemed.
Though in a different time period and on a different level, “Erin Brockovich” is another example of a much less obvious existentialist. Unlike the invisible man and Roskolnikov she creates her own enemy to defeat, PG. They’re a suitable opponent. They’re cruel, thoughtless and careless to poor innocent victims. Brockovich was labeled as poor white trash and assumed that she would never be anything more. Though she had no skills for a job she didn’t let the world’s rules stop her from being successful. She is an existentialist because she goes by her own rules and is responsible for her own acts and her own consequences. She is different from the invisible man and Rokolnikov because she does have some idea of who she is before she starts the trial.
By creating and defeating her monster she is able to reaffirm her own strength and abilities. In doing so she reestablishes herself in society. She finds herself by being confident and blocking those around her from tearing her down. Existentialism is evident in the lives of the three characters. They each go through trials and struggle to find their true selves.
The Invisible Man didn’t like what he found and decided to become a hermit. Roskolnikov found himself through Christianity and another person’s love. And in doing so became a better person. Erin Brockovich was able to find herself through proving to others her own capabilities. Each of these works deals with existentialism in different aspects, and each is a search for true self.